I’m back. Kalayna and I were supposed to do a PR interview for the release of her new book, but it lines got crossed, so here I am. It has been a wonderful vacation, I admit it, and I am refreshed and ready to go. Back to the 5 senses.
Taste and physical touch (including temperature and texture) are the least used senses in the writer’s tool box, which makes them very powerful when added in to exposition or narrative. Writers who use them, both judiciously and well, often add a kind of poetry to their writing that is missing in other writers’ work.
I took the following from my rough WIP, Raven Cursed, and then, because I saw where it needed work, I rewrote it fairly extensively.
Chilled moisture soaked my hand and I jerked away. Bright crimson stained my palm, blood oozing from the puncture site in his side. I pressed gauze into the wound, but the blood welled around it, coating my hands. Vamps don’t bleed. Not like this. “Crap,” I whispered.
Chilled moisture soaked my hand and I jerked away. Brighter than-human-crimson stained my palm, blood oozing from the puncture site in his side. I pressed rough gauze into the wound, but the cold, dead blood welled around it, coating my hands, filling the small lines and wrinkles, cooling my skin. Vamps don’t bleed. Not like this. “Crap,” I whispered.
I am not one of those writers who can pour poetry into her writing, but it is much stronger with the added descriptive words. Frankly, I could take some out and have a tighter, more concise paragraph, but I liked it way it ended.
This one is just playing around. Texture original:
The sheets snagged on her toes and heels, grabbing at her pajamas, and holding them in place so when she turned over, she twisted into the cloth, tangling.
Texture, revised: The coarse sheets scraped over her, rough woven cloth snagging on her broken toenails and the cracked skin of her heels, grabbing at her pajamas and holding them in place. When she turned over, she twisted into the cloth, tangling and sweaty hot.
Taste is even harder for writers to use because we don’t think of taste except in the context of food, but it’s everywhere in our lives. Right now, my next door neighbor is burning storm debris and the smoke is blowing into my house, choking me, ashy and acrid and sour-tasting, even though it is mostly a smell and even though I have the house-sized air filter running beside me. When my coworkers spray the bathroom, the perfume coats my tongue with a metallic, synthetic, taste. But taste can be used to do more than describe the flavor on one’s tongue, it can be used to indicate emotional reactions to what has happened in a passage. Or even combine the flavor of something with emotional reactions
Examples (yes, some are trite, but work with me here!):
It left a bad taste in my mouth.
The taste of failure was like ashes.
The taste of victory was sweeter than the finest wine.
Her love made the wine taste even more earthy, the fruit sweeter.
I don’t usually use taste in the first rough draft, but I do add it in when I go back for the first rewrite, and it adds a spice to the work that is otherwise missing. Anyone want to play in the sandbox? Jump in with taste or physical sensation.